The Urgent Need for Transparency in Scottish Football

The recent Viaplay Cup match between Rangers and Livingston ended in a 4-0 victory for Rangers, but the game was not without its share of controversy. Abdallah Sima, who was named the player of the match, scored the opening goal amid a cloud of contention. During the build-up to the goal, there appeared to be a clear push on Livingston's Jamie Brandon. The push was significant enough to unbalance Brandon and create space for Sima to take his shot. Yet, the VAR officials chose not to intervene, leaving fans and pundits alike scratching their heads.

This incident has reignited the debate on the effectiveness and transparency of VAR technology in Scottish football. The lack of action from VAR in this particular incident raises questions about the system's reliability and the need for greater transparency. In a sport where every decision can drastically impact the outcome, the absence of a clear explanation for such pivotal moments only fuels ongoing debates and accusations of bias. For years, Scottish football has been plagued by these accusations, and even with the introduction of VAR, these issues persist.

Contrast this with the recent Glasgow derby where VAR was used to make a crucial decision. In that match, the officials got it right, but the process was shrouded in mystery. The fans, players, and even the managers were left to speculate on what was being discussed and why the decision was made. While the correct call was ultimately made, the lack of transparency still left room for debate and speculation.

So, what can be done to bring more transparency to the game? One possible solution could be to adopt a system similar to the NBA's "Last Two Minute Reports." In the NBA, these reports provide a detailed breakdown of the officials' decisions in the last two minutes of a game, offering explanations for each call. They are publicly available and aim to bring transparency and accountability to the game, example here.

For Scottish football, such a report could look something like this:

  • Minute 10: Push by Abdallah Sima on Jamie Brandon - No Foul Called
  • Review Decision: Incorrect non call
  • Explanation: Match official reported contact was observed but the contact was not sufficient enough to call a foul. VAR officials supported this view. Review determined the contact was sufficient enough to knock the player off balance and a foul should have been awarded. 

Imagine a similar system in Scottish football, where a report is released after each match detailing all significant incidents, particularly those involving VAR. This would not only provide fans and teams with a clear understanding of why certain decisions were made but also add a layer of accountability to the officials. It's worth noting that this information is already recorded and provided to match officials and possibly even shared in reports to the clubs themselves. Making it publicly available would be a logical next step.

The implementation of a transparent reporting system akin to the NBA's "Last Two Minute Reports" should be relatively straightforward for Scottish football. Take, for example, the work of Celtic By Numbers, a platform that goes to great lengths to bring transparency to the game. Every week, they get a match official from another association to review key events in Scottish football. This independent review provides a fresh perspective, free from the biases that may affect local officials. The reports are detailed, insightful, and serve as an excellent model for what official transparency could look like in Scottish football. You can see an example of their work here: Celtic By Numbers Honest Mistakes Week Five.

In fact, having key events reviewed by someone independent to Scottish football might add an extra layer of credibility and impartiality to the process. It would serve as a check against any unconscious biases and offer a more balanced view of the game's pivotal moments. This could be particularly beneficial in high-stakes matches where emotions run high and every decision is scrutinised.

The introduction of such a system could go a long way in dispelling accusations of bias and bringing much-needed transparency to Scottish football. After all, in a game where the stakes are high, clarity and fairness should never be optional. Transparency is not just about getting the call right; it's about explaining why it's right. And in a sport that ignites as much passion as football does, that explanation can make all the difference.

In the words of the legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein, "If you're good enough, the referee shouldn't matter." But in a sport where decisions can be so finely balanced, transparency does matter. And it's about time Scottish football took the steps to ensure it.

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